The Maharashtra social welfare department has written to the state government seeking 10 special courts and appointment of special public prosecutors for cases registered under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act in the backdrop of ongoing protests by the Maratha community and its demand for amendments to the Act.
The conviction rate under the Prevention of Atrocities (POA) and Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) Acts recorded by the state police has been only 1 per cent. The latest move by the department comes after officials studied the Act, which was recently amended. The amendment law makes provisions for appointment of special public prosecutors and setting up of special courts that will try cases registered under the Act.
Watch What Else is Making news
“Instead of the public prosecutor being roped during the trial stage, we have requested the state government that the state lawyer should be engaged right at the early stages of the investigations so that the charge sheet prepared by the investigators is watertight and clinching evidence is gathered so as to ensure that the case get conviction,” a senior official from the state home department told The Indian Express.
“Also, with special courts being set up at district levels it will ensures that the cases are fast-tracked and disposed off quickly. Currently, with only a few courts hearing cases registered under these special Acts, the trials are delayed and stretched,” said another official.
Other than the demand for courts and lawyers, a requisition for protection of the witnesses has been made too. “A typical case under POA is that of the accused who mostly hails from the higher caste abusing the victim of being a member of the SC or ST. This amounts to an offence under the Act. Such cases require the testimony of the witnesses who would have seen the accused hurling abuses and invoking the victim caste. Therefore, protection of such witnesses is necessary so that the witness is not compromised and stand the test of the court. We have therefore asked the State Government to ensure protection of the witness,” said the official.
According to data obtained by The Indian Express under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, Maharashtra has seen a rise in complaints filed under POA and PCR from 1,700 to 1,800 in the year 2010 to 2,100-2,300. Complaints being registered in the last few years, however, amount to 1 per cent of the total complaints registered in the state. Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have more FIRs registered under the two Acts.
The data also reveals a pattern in these complaints. While certain pockets of Maharashtra have always witnessed a high number of complaints being registered under the two Acts, the maximum complaints this year have been registered in Ahmednagar and Marathwada’s Parbhani district.
According to the data, between 2013 and 2015, the maximum complaints were registered in Vidharbha’s Yavatmal district. In 2013, 153 complaints under the two Acts were registered in the district, while 147 and 137 complaints, respectively, were registered in Yavatmal in 2014 and 2015. Ahmednagar is next with 111 cases registered in 2013, 115 in 2014 and 116 in 2015.
However, this year, according to the figures available with The Indian Express, Ahmednagar has the maximum complaints registered under the two Acts till July 2016. While 82 complaints were registered in Ahmednagar, Parbhani area saw the second most number of complaints with 73 FIRs registered till July. Yavatmal has the third largest complaints with 72 FIRs registered till July this year.